Monday, April 25, 2011

OFF! raids Neumo's and proudly raises a black flag ...

I just want some OFF! Keith Morris barks it out at Neumo's (Andy photos)
By Andy

Don't mention Black Flag and the Circle Jerks in the same breath.

That was the message swirling around the scene when attending my first punk-rock gig at the Starwood (Los Angeles) in April of 1981. It was the Circle Jerks appearing with TSOL, I was 14 years old and I was intimidated by the crowd -- some of whom at that time were seemingly split between the Black Flag and Circle Jerks camps, since Jerks singer Keith Morris formerly sang for Flag. I couldn't figure out why people thought that way, because both bands were great and that's that.

Dimitri Coats hammers away on guitar.
Coats and Morris make beautiful music together.

While waiting in line for the gig, I spotted a girl who had the Black Flag bars shaved into her cropped hairdo. I pointed at the logo, my brother said not to: after all it was a Flag association at a Jerks gig. Once again, I thought, so what?

Morris screamed his guts out that night and even sang "I Don't Care," a tune he barked for Flag and brought with him to the Jerks.

The wisecracking vocalist's Black Flag affiliation is stronger than ever today, and his latest outfit, OFF!, borrows heavily from the bombastic, groundbreaking Flag "Nervous Breakdown" era that he was involved in all those years ago. OFF! stormed Seattle's Neumo's on Sunday night and Morris and his bandmates -- Steven McDonald (bass), Dimitri Coats (guitar) and Mario Rubalcaba (drums)  --- were in top form. It was cool watching Coats rattle his six-string after watching him play the spooky vampire "Queeny" in the comic, rock-and-roll horror flick "Suck" just days earlier. McDonald formerly rocked with Redd Kross and Rubalcaba (aka Ruby Mars) skated on the pro circuit and drummed for Rocket From the Crypt and Hot Snakes among others.

McDonald bangs his head, just like in his Redd Kross days.
"Ruby Mars" lays down the backbeat.
It's clear that Morris gladly embraces his past. During the gig, he mentioned Flag, The Church in Hermosa Beach, Calif., where the band played many raucous parties ... and at the end of OFF!s set -- when the crowd wanted more -- he sarcastically noted that they were going to play their "Black Flag medley," which consisted of repeating several OFF! tunes.

While they get OFF! on playing sweaty clubs, Morris joked that they'd perform at the Super Bowl halftime show if called upon. For their "hit" song "Fuck People," he said they'd lengthen the short tune to 30 minutes, add an orchestra and children's choir to make it happen.

Some people say OFF! is more Circle Jerks-sounding than Black Flag, but what counts is that Morris is doing his thing. Thirty years down the road, and we still dig 'em both, so let's just say that it's a double-barreled shotgun blast of both bands, OK?

P.S. Once in the '90s, while record shopping at Go Boy in Redondo Beach, Calif., Morris was working the register and seemed baffled that I didn't want my receipt after making a purchase. "Hey, man, why not?" he asked, ... I shrugged my shoulders and walked out of the store. It was good to see him again with OFF!, this time, working the stage with microphone in hand and singing about life and not worried about record-store receipts.

**For an OFF! slideshow, see:

1 comment:

  1. i like your view on the whole situation since ive heard people saying hes "selling out" pfft i think its cool hardcore is rearing its ugly little head again lol i met keith while waiting for a light to change walking in my neighborhood hes very wound up lol but he was cool